Today has seen the publication of the much awaited report from the House of Commons Transport Select committee on whiplash injury claims.
Victims who suffer whiplash type injuries in motor accidents have been on the receiving end of some of the most vitriolic rhetoric from insurers, ministers and the media. They have been made to feel personally responsible for the eye-watering insurance premiums.
These attacks have been previously been criticised by the Civil Justice Council –
The Select Committee report has come down firmly on the side of the victims –
One extremely worrying proposal was to raise the small claims limit to £5000.00. This was designed to make it impossible for most whiplash claimants to get independent legal advice as they would be barred from recovering the costs of doing so. The committee has firmly rejected this.
‘Insurers will use legal professionals to contest claims, which will add to this problem.
‘It would be financially difficult for many solicitors to assist litigants fighting personal injury claims using the small-claims procedure, given the limited fees available. However, we are concerned that some claims management firms might find a way to enter the process, fueling another boom in their activities.’
Despite claims about a so called compensation culture the report found that there has in fact been a significant reduction in the number of claims over recent years. In response to government claims about the number of fraudulent claims the committee expressed surprise that ministers were proposing steps to reduce the number of fraudulent claims – ‘without giving even an estimate of the comparative scale of the problem.’ Many of us have been saying for months that this problem was overstated.
It is also telling that the committee criticises the government for meeting with insurers and excluding concerned members of the legal profession –
‘We were disappointed to hear from witnesses from the legal profession that they had not been invited to the Prime Minister's summit and nor are we aware of any substantive contact with DfT ministers. This is particularly surprising given that legal reforms were clearly under discussion.’
The report is available here –
It remains to be seen whether the Ministry of Justice will take any notice. But this is a very influential, all party committee which has looked at evidence for all sides of the debate.
It is certainly encouraging news for victims.
Is it a turning of the tide? Only time will tell